Feds Plan Offshore Wind Consortium With 11 Atlantic States

WASHINGTON, DC, February 22, 2010 (ENS) – The federal government and 11 Atlantic Coast states have taken a first step towards forming a “wind consortium” to expedite offshore wind permitting processes and electricity transmission planning efforts for the Atlantic Coast.

“America’s offshore wind potential holds great promise for our clean energy future,” said Secretary Salazar at a meeting of the governors of Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf states on Friday.

“A coordinated, region-wide approach to offshore wind will help us move forward with orderly development in the Atlantic OCS,” Salazar said. “Region-wide planning could foster cooperative approaches to developing the infrastructure necessary to service offshore wind development.”

The Secretary credited the governors in attendance for being in the forefront of the efforts to harness offshore wind to achieve in energy independence.

Maine Governor John Baldacci said the meeting signified a proactive first step in forming an Atlantic Wind Consortium that will ensure cooperation of the states and the federal government to speed up permitting of off-shore wind facilities.

“I appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that Secretary Salazar has brought to bear to realize the great potential to create jobs and clean energy through a focused approach to offshore wind development,” said Governor Baldacci. “Maine has strong potential to become a national leader in offshore wind development and the federal support for our efforts is critical, especially in regards to streamlining permitting.”

Governor Baldacci credited the Obama administration for its strong focus, financial support and attention to reducing regulatory burdens such as permitting for clean energy production.

While a broad mix of renewable energy sources is necessary to provide secure energy supplies and jobs, Governor Baldacci told the Secretary that ocean wind should continue to receive attention and support from the federal government.

Two fin whales in the Gulf of Maine, where offshore wind farms are proposed (Photo by Rhiannon Inman-Simpson)

Maine is particularly well-placed to be a leader in offshore wind energy generation due to favorable geography, broad-based support including public-private partnerships and the technological and workforce strengths that the state has built, the governor said.

“Maine’s deep ocean waters relatively close to shore, combined with our extensive maritime industry infrastructure and proximity to large northeastern regional energy markets, makes the Gulf of Maine the ideal location to lead vital deepwater offshore wind development efforts for the nation,” said Baldacci.

The University of Maine DeepCwind Deepwater Offshore Wind Consortium has been awarded $25 million of federal support, including federal Recovery Act funds, to expand efforts to develop offshore wind capacity.

In January, the University of Maine received a $12.4 million grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology for construction of its new deepwater offshore wind energy research and testing facility. Funded by the Recovery Act, it will be the only facility of its kind in the United States to include complete development capabilities for designing, prototyping and testing large structural hybrid composite and nanocomposite components for the deep water offshore wind energy industry.

In December, the Baldacci administration named demonstration sites for offshore wind technology located in Maine coastal waters, including the University of Maine testing site off Monhegan Island. The university has the goal for the first demonstration turbine to be operating in the water in 2011.

“Additional federal funding and a coordinated approach by federal agencies for siting of ocean wind and turbine projects are essential to facilitate ocean energy production in Maine,” said Governor Baldacci. “Maine is eager to lead the way to a more stable and secure energy supply that is renewable and will create jobs here in this country.”

In addition, Governor Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island; Governor Jack Markell of Delaware; Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia; Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland; and by phone, Governor Deval Patrick Massachusetts attended the news conference announcing the consortium.

In Massachusetts, Energy Management Inc. has been going through an eight-year long permitting process for the country’s first offshore wind development, Cape Wind, on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound.

Simulated view of the Cape Wind wind farm in Nantucket Sound as seen from Craigville, Massachusetts, 6.5 miles away (Image courtesy Cape Wind)

State and local permitting was completed in 2009, and a federal permitting decision is expected by April 2010. Once it gets underway, construction will take two years and create at least 600 construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs once the facility comes online.

The Cape Wind project has been reviewed by 17 federal and state agencies over the past eight years with each succeeding environmental report giving it a positive review.

The project is oppposed by Cape Cod residents who fear the Cape Wind project would pose threats to public safety, marine wildlife and habitats, tribal and historic resources, commercial fisheries, and the local economy.

More than five miles from the nearest shore, 130 wind turbines would produce up to 420 megawatts of renewable energy. In average winds, Cape Wind would provide three-quarters of the Cape and Islands electricity needs.

Cape Wind will reduce wholesale electric prices for the New England region by $4.6 billion over 25 years, according to a report published February 11 by Charles River Associates, an economic consulting firm.

Commissioned by Cape Wind, the report by Charles River Associates found that Cape Wind will place downward pressure on the wholesale clearing price of electricity by reducing operations of higher priced and polluting fossil fueled units. This will result in average savings of $185 million per year in New England.

“This report makes it very clear, Cape Wind will provide good long term value to electric consumers,” said Cape Wind President Jim Gordon. “By reducing operations of higher priced fossil fuel units, Cape Wind will reduce regional electric prices, reduce pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions while increasing our energy independence.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.